The Cleveland Browns may have found the 2021 season to be a disappointment after not being able to return to the playoffs, but there were still several individual performances worthy of post-season honors.
Pro Football Focus did just that on Monday by releasing its Top 101 players list, which the site says “represents the top 101 individual performances this season, regardless of position, and credits the best players of the season that was.”
The Browns landed four players on the list - down from seven the previous season - so let’s take a run through which Cleveland players were honored:
No. 7: Myles Garrett, defensive end
Only Micah Parsons — who rushed the passer 217 fewer times — posted a better PFF pass-rushing grade than Garrett this season. Garrett finally put together a full season of elite-level play and was a constant problem for opposing offensive tackles. Even players who were otherwise good over the season — such as Bears left tackle Jason Peters — had no answer for Garrett’s skill set.
It was a big jump for Garrett, who was No. 43 on last year’s list, as he broke defensive end Reggie Camp’s official record of 14 sacks in a season by totaling 16. That was just a half-sack by defensive end Bill Glass’ actual, although unofficial, team record of 16.5 sacks.
Garrett’s 58.5 career sacks currently place him at No. 6 on the franchise’s all-time list.
No. 11: Joel Bitonio, left guard
This year was a season of disappointment for the Browns, but Bitonio had a career year in what has been an already impressive career. He allowed 17 pressures in 17 games and recorded, by far, the best PFF run-blocking grade (92.5) of his career. Bitonio was one of the best players, not just the best offensive linemen, in the entire league this season even while the Browns underachieved as a team.
Bitonio followed Garrett in making a big jump as he moved up from No. 46 to No. 11 this season. Bitonio played every game for the fifth consecutive season, even taking an emergency turn at left tackle for a pair of games, and earned his fourth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl, making him the first Cleveland guard to achieve that since Hall of Famer Gene Hickerson was selected from 1966 to 1971.
No. 36: Nick Chubb, running back
Chubb wasn’t quite as good this season as he was in previous years, yet he still averaged over 4.2 yards per carry after contact, broke 57 tackles and racked up 17 breakaway runs of 15 or more yards on the season. For the fourth consecutive year, he posted an 80.0-plus PFF rushing grade, the only running back in the league to achieve that feat. Chubb’s biggest weakness is his lack of use in the passing game, but as a pure ball carrier, there may be nobody better.
Chubb finished the season second in the league in rushing yards with 1,259. It was the second time in Chubb’s career that he surpassed 1,200 rushing yards, joining Hall of Famers Jim Brown (seven times) and Leroy Kelly (twice) as the only running backs in franchise history to rush for more than 1,200 yards in multiple seasons, according to clevelandbrowns.com.
No. 89: JC Tretter, center
Tretter had another excellent and consistent season for the Cleveland Browns at center. He allowed 10 pressures across 587 pass-blocking snaps and only one of those pressures was a sack. Tretter’s run blocking was good, but he has now had seven consecutive seasons with a pass-blocking grade of at least 80.
For the first time since joining the Browns in 2017 as he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list for the Week 15 game against Green Bay. While he slipped in the PFF rankings from No. 80 to No. 89, it was still another solid season for the veteran anchor of Cleveland’s offensive line.
The players who did not make a repeat appearance on the list for the Browns were quarterback Baker Mayfield, No. 45 last season, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, No. 58 last season, right guard Wyatt Teller, No. 18 last season, and right tackle Jack Conklin, No. 62 last season.
Chubb made it this season after not being selected in 2020.